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UCU Dispute

UCU Strike Update

The UCU represents members of higher education, including academic staff like lecturers and teaching staff, and non-academic staff like librarians, technicians, and administrators.Many staff at the University of Dundee are part of the University and College Union (UCU).

Members of the UCU are asking their vice-chancellors to enter negotiations with the University and Colleges Employers Association (UCEA) to improve their working conditions, short-term contracts, race, gender and disability pay gaps.

The elected representatives on the UCU’s higher education committee (HEC) voted to begin a marking and assessment boycott (MAB) from the 20th of April 2023, find out what that means in the documents below. 

Background

You may have heard that the UCU announced that more than 70,000 staff across 150 Universities in the UK are going on Industrial action. This decision was made following the national historic ballot where there was majority support for a “yes” vote, for all UCU members to take strike action*. This was following the rejection of the UCEA pay offer worth between 4-7 per cent **. The UCU is “demanding a meaningful pay rise” to help alleviate the pressures with the cost-of-living crisis as well as action the end of use of insecure contracts, claiming a third of academic staff are on temporary contracts.

“We hope that our proposals will be recognised as a genuine attempt by employers to address the cost of living pressures. UCU members do not want to take strike action that targets students. Employers do not want to deduct pay in response to such strike action that targets students. Now it is the time to talk.”

“But UCU needs to provide its members with a realistic and fair assessment of what is achievable before giving them the chance to accept or refuse the highest HE pay offer made in nearly 20 years.” -Mr Raj Jethwa, UCEA Chief-Executive.

“Staff teaching conditions are students’ learning conditions, and we must fight together for a fairer, healthier education system for everyone who works and studies.” 

“The struggles we face as students are inextricably linked to the reasons that staff are striking. High rents, astronomical international student fees, and cuts to maintenance support have happened for the same reasons that staff are suffering under huge workloads – the failed marketisation of the sector which has put profit above staff and student well-being.”

The NUS (National Union of Students) UK Officer Team, including the Presidents of NUS Scotland, NUS Wales and NUS-USI

“UCU members do not want to strike but are doing so to save the sector and win dignity at work.”

Jo Grady, UCU general secretary

*UCEA pay offer for the 2023/24 pay settlement was the limit of affordability.  Lower-salaried roles would receive about 7%, while earnings up to £51,000 would receive a minimum of 5%, with those in higher brackets receiving 4% and 1.6% to 2.8%.

**In the pay and working condition ballot, the yes vote for strike action was 81.1% with a 57.8% turnout. In the pension ballot, the yes vote for strike action was 84.9% with a 60.2% turnout. Staff also voted yes overwhelmingly for action short of strike in both ballots.

Frequently asked questions

It’s up to you, unless you hear otherwise, assume your classes are going ahead and you should attend teaching sessions as normal. However, you may want to stand in solidarity with your lecturers and abstain from attending your teaching. UCU members are not obligated to disclose their intentions on the days of industrial action, and they may not commit to striking each day. However, the University has the right to ask all teaching staff if they intend to participate in strike action. Disclosure will be treated with confidence and solely to mitigate the impact of the strike action on students.

Therefore, classes and lectures could be cancelled, or labs, workshops, or library spaces could be closed or have reduced capacity.

Students may be impacted by the strike action in many different ways. In light of the significant, combined, impact of these factors the University will be taking a ‘no detriment’ approach, used during the pandemic, when confirming grades and degree outcomes. To find out more information please visit: https://www.dundee.ac.uk/guides/no-detriment-what-does-it-mean

How does the university intend to spend the pay that’s been withheld from staff who participate in the strikes?

Blair Grubb, VP of (education) indicated at the December 2022 SRC that this was yet to be decided. However, in the past deducted staff pay had been directed to the discretionary fund at the request of the striking staff.

The scale of the strike action is unprecedented; therefore, it is unclear how the strike action will affect the students. However, during the November ’22 strikes, a spokesperson for Dundee University said:

“We will not know the impact until the days of the strike action, but we will do everything we can to mitigate any impact on students.

“The majority of activity across the university will most likely continue as normal.”

The University recognises that is has the right, and duty to take steps to minimise disruption to students. While also ensuring that staff who are not impacted by the dispute (and those who do not wish to strike) can go about their normal work. Stating that contingency plans are in place, with a focus on minimising the disruption of students, their learning and campus experience.

If classes are dismissed due to the strike action, then those classes will be dismissed in the calculation of your attendance record. Therefore, if you hold a Tier 4 visa your status will not be affected by any industrial action.

It is up to you. Previously there have been picket lines outside the Tower building, you may see UCU members protesting outside university buildings. Staff may ask you not to cross their picket line, but they are not allowed to prevent you from entering buildings or going about your day as normal.

Contingency plans are in place, with a focus on minimising the disruption of students, their learning and campus experience. For example, the reintroduction of the no-detriment policy.

The University of Dundee guidance -www.dundee.ac.uk/student-services

DUSA’s Advice and Support team- www.dusa.co.uk/advice

ASOS means UCU members do their usual working days but may take one or more of the following actions:

Working to contract

Not covering absent colleagues

Not rescheduling lectures or classes cancelled due to strike action

Not sharing materials relating to lectures or classes cancelled as a result of strike action and;

Not undertaking any voluntary activities.